A catastrophic failure of ambition

AT the 1997 Forum leaders’ meeting in Rarotonga, Australian Prime Minister John Howard blocked a regional consensus on climate policy. Forum leaders were hoping for a strong, common position to take to Japan that year, for the talks that developed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. For the next decade, the Howard government stood aside from its Pacific neighbours, refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It looks like we’re about to witness the same process, as leaders meet in Port Moresby this month for the Pacific Islands Forum.

The annual leaders’ meeting comes just months before the next summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is supposed to finalise a global climate agreement. Over the last two months, Australia, New Zealand and other countries have announced their targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2020. These targets, known as the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), become the starting point for the UNFCCC talks in Paris next December.

Despite some advances, the current pledges set the globe on a path to 3 or 4 degrees of warming, a catastrophic failure of ambition that will devastate small island developing states. Forum host Peter O’Neill has quite a task to bridge the widening gap on climate policy between Australia, New Zealand and the Forum island countries.

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